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test cricket

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Why Anurag Thakur is wrong to criticise Sandeep Patil


BCCI chief Anurag Thakur has an opinion on former India chief selector Sandeep Patil.

Thakur termed the erstwhile swashbuckling batsman and coach “unethical” for revealing the deliberations around Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement and MS Dhoni’s continuance as India skipper.

He said:

“Let me make it very clear. Sandeep being a former chairman should not have made these comments. When he was the chairman, he replied differently to the same questions. But after that (his tenure), it was different. It was totally unethical of him to do that.

One should refrain from making such unethical and unwanted comments in this area (selection matters). It is because he has been trusted to become the chairman, because he has played enough cricket. There were four more selectors with him, they did not say anything. He (Patil) should have avoided that.

…Right people in the BCCI will speak to him soon.

…Any organisation, if they hire him (Patil), will think 10 times that after leaving the organisation, he will speak about the organisation.”

Patil appeared to have been disillusioned with his tenure as the chief selector.

He first stated he had lost friends as a selector.

After picking the Indian side for the New Zealand home series, he confessed:

“The only sad thing about being a selector is that you end up losing some of your friends.”

Later speaking to Marathi news channel ‘ABP Majha’, he revealed:

“On December 12, 2012, we met Sachin and asked him about his future plans. He said he did not have retirement on his mind. But the selection committee had reached a consensus on Sachin… and had informed the board too about it. Perhaps Sachin understood what was coming because at the time of the next meeting, Sachin called and said he was retiring (from ODIs). If he had not announced his decision to quit then, we would have definitely dropped him.”

The bearded ex-cricketer contradicted himself on the same channel’s website, saying:

“As long as I remember, it was December 12, 2012, Nagpur. Sachin got out and the selectors decided to meet him and ask him about his wish. I was the one who staged the meet, being the chairman of selectors, and it was purely to understand what was running in his mind. It was a good thing to do. It did not happen in one day, one month or one year, it took two long years. Sachin retired in 2013. The meeting in Nagpur was just to ask his plans. Sachin wanted to concentrate more on Test cricket. So, it was decided that he would retire from One-day cricket. He called me and Sanjay Jagdale (then BCCI secretary). Then it was collectively decided that he would retire from ODIs.”

It was Patil’s disclosures about current ODI and T20 skipper MS Dhoni that set the cat among the pigeons.

“Things didn’t move in our favour, and in that backdrop one of your senior players decided to hang his gloves. That was shocking, but in the end, it was his decision (to retire from Test cricket).

…We, of course, had a brief discussion about it (sacking Dhoni) on few occasions. We wanted to experiment by shifting the baton but we thought the time was not right as the World Cup was fast approaching. New captain should be given some time to set things right. Keeping in mind the World Cup, we chose to go with Dhoni. I believe Virat got the captaincy at the right time and he can lead the team in shorter formats as well. The decision rests with the new selection committee.”

Patil also asserted that Dhoni had no hand in the dropping of either Gautam Gambhir or Yuvraj Singh.

He added:

“I feel disappointed when I read reports about Dhoni’s relation with Gambhir and Yuvraj. Dhoni never opposed their selection.

It was completely the selectors’ decision to drop them and Dhoni did not have any say in dropping Gambhir and Yuvraj. Both the captains never opposed any player.”

While Thakur may be miffed at Patil’s forthrightness to the media soon after quitting the selection panel, he can hardly comment about taking any action against him or on his employment chances in the future in the absence of a non-disclosure agreement with a stated cooling off period of  a year.

Anything more than a year might be excessive. And why should selectors be hog-tied when cricketers, past and present, publish freewheeling accounts of their run-ins with their teammates, coaches, selectors and sections of the media in their multiple best-selling autobiographies.

Are they to be held less accountable?

The BCCI has (rightly) opposed the opening up of selection of the Indian team to public scrutiny (via the RTI act) stating that appointed selectors are more than qualified to do the job and that choosing of the Indian cricket team cannot be done by a majority vote of the public. Would you let public opinion decide what the justices of state and national courts have been appointed for?

There has to be a balance struck. Where do you draw the line?

Should selectors and administrators be continually vilified in the court of public opinion long after their tenures have ended? Are they not to be allowed to state their version of events past? If not to defend themselves,  then to promote transparency and debate. 

National governments have a cut-off period after which classified documents are to be made public for historians and buffs to discover the inner workings of past decisions.

Aren’t public bodies like the BCCI not to provide the same courtesy to the sports loving public of this nation?

 

 

 

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Why our sporting heroes don’t deserve biopics


Sports biopics are the flavour of the past few years in Bollywood.

But have they really been worth catching on the big screen?

‘Bhaag, Milkha, Bhaag’ was phenomenal.

And ‘Budhia: Born To Run’ with its almost documentary-like yet moving treatment of the young boy from Orissa who languishes in a sports hostel, still banned from running by the state, was worth a dekko.

But you can’t say much about ‘Azhar’ or, for that matter, ‘Sultan’, a fictional wrestler’s story, that enjoyed blockbuster success at the box office.

I haven’t seen ‘Mary Kom‘ but I’m against the very concept of having a Punjabi actress depict a North-Eastern boxing icon.

Gautam Gambhir stirred a hornet’s nest on Twitter with his remarks criticizing the trend of biographical films on cricketers.

He said:

Given that Neeraj Pandey’s ‘MS  Dhoni: The Untold Story‘ was slated for release in the upcoming weeks, many of Dhoni’s fans questioned Gambhir’s intent and timing.

Was the Delhi cricketer taking a potshot at his former skipper? It is no secret that Gambhir could have been in the running for the captain’s post had his stint in the side continued.

James Erskine’s ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams‘ is also expected to be in theatres in the near future.

I, for one, saw nothing wrong with the left-hander’s statements.

Successful  cricketers are accorded the status of demi-gods in India. Reams of  traditional and online media are dedicated  to telling and retelling the stories of their humble beginnings.

Gambhir is right that we need to focus on real heroes who have devoted their lives to the country whether it be on the battlefield, social service or business.

Yet, sports other than cricket need heroes to follow and for every successful sportsperson, there are countless others who have tried and given their best—participating or coaching.

Wouldn’t you like to know the story of Ramakant Achrekar?

How about Sakshi Malik’s coach Kuldeep Malik who is yet to receive his cash award of Rs. 5 lacs? He has in his possession a photo-copied cheque instead!

Celebrate India’s successful sporting stars? Yes, do. But don’t forget those  who helped them become great and in the process made  this country greater—in all spheres. 

Stats and Graphs: Kohli versus Ponting, Tendulkar and Lara


Kohli Graphs1 Kohli Graphs2 Kohli Graphs3

Tests
Player\Statistics Runs Average Best 100s 50s Conversion Rate
Virat Kohli 2994 44.02 169 11 12 .48
Ricky Ponting 2481 44.3 197 7 12 .37
Sachin Tendulkar 2911 54.92 179 10 14 .42
Brian Lara 3751 55.16 375 8 20 .29
ODIs
Player\Statistics Runs Average Strike Rate 100s 50s Conversion Rate
Virat Kohli 7212 51.51 89.97 7 12 .37
Ricky Ponting 6143 42.37 77.56 13 33 .28
Sachin Tendulkar 5828 38.85 82.58 12 36 .25
Brian Lara 6433 42.32 79.12 13 41 .24

Source:http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/zFN5uZLt2L57BBh01TH2AI/Kohli-and-crickets-modern-greats.html

Batting prowess overseas in seaming, swinging conditions predicates success


Team India appears to have turned the corner with Manish Pandey’s scintillating ton ending the losing spree of games in the ODI series. The spin bowlers and newcomers Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bhumra joined the party in the first T20. The scoreline now reads 4-2 if the matches were an eight game series.

It has been my pet theory that if Indian batsmen do well in South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand, they can be counted on as long-term prospects and should be persisted with more than any other batters who may pile up runs by the dozen on the subcontinent but who come up a cropper against the antipodeans and the English.

Towards this end, I decided to gather some stats about how Indian batters have fared against the above four teams in their home conditions.

The following is a list of Indian batters who average above 30 against South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia overseas.

Tests
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 0
SR Tendulkar 1990-2012 63 114 9 5387 241* 51.3 17 23 6
R Dravid 1996-2012 46 89 10 3909 233 49.48 10 17 2
SM Gavaskar 1971-1986 32 57 2 2464 221 44.8 8 11 4
SC Ganguly 1996-2008 32 59 4 2311 144 42.01 5 13 4
VVS Laxman 1997-2012 41 75 8 2710 178 40.44 5 15 4
M Azharuddin 1985-1999 30 48 3 1731 192 38.46 6 5 1
GR Viswanath 1971-1982 27 50 3 1805 114 38.4 2 16 3
DB Vengsarkar 1976-1992 37 64 6 2014 157 34.72 4 10 6
V Sehwag 2001-2012 29 54 0 1788 195 33.11 4 6 7
MS Dhoni 2006-2014 32 55 5 1529 92 30.58 0 11 5

The list is illustrious reading like a who’s who of Indian cricket in Tests with Mahendra Singh Dhoni bringing up the rear with an average of 30.58 with a highest score of 92 in 32 Tests and 55 innings.

Virender Sehwag, surprisingly, ranks just above him with an average of 33.11 from 29 matches and 54 innings. His highest score is 195 with four centuries to his name.

Let’s look at the list of players who have averaged over 30 in ODIs.

ODIs
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0
V Kohli 2011-2016 35 34 3 1282 123 41.35 1443 88.84 4 7 2
RG Sharma 2008-2016 34 32 4 1140 171* 40.71 1437 79.33 3 4 1
R Dravid 1996-2011 53 53 5 1922 123* 40.04 2763 69.56 1 20 2
MS Dhoni 2006-2016 57 52 8 1737 84* 39.47 2117 82.05 0 14 2
SM Gavaskar 1974-1986 22 21 3 701 92* 38.94 1327 52.82 0 6 0
M Azharuddin 1985-1999 48 47 10 1416 93 38.27 2062 68.67 0 12 1
RA Jadeja 2011-2016 24 21 8 466 87 35.84 476 97.89 0 3 2
S Dhawan 2013-2016 20 19 1 621 126 34.5 674 92.13 1 3 1
SR Tendulkar 1990-2012 82 82 3 2584 163* 32.7 3301 78.27 4 14 4
AM Rahane 2011-2016 22 21 1 634 106 31.7 782 81.07 1 3 2
RJ Shastri 1982-1992 22 20 4 505 62* 31.56 887 56.93 0 4 2
SC Ganguly 1996-2007 46 46 0 1443 127 31.36 2008 71.86 2 11 5
SK Raina 2006-2015 34 30 2 869 100 31.03 871 99.77 1 3 0
V Sehwag 2001-2012 35 35 1 1027 125* 30.2 1099 93.44 3 3 3

Virat Kohli tops this list with an average of 41.35 from 34 innings with four tons and a highest score of 123. Rohit Sharma follows with 40.71 from 32 innings and three hundreds.

Surprising entries in this list include Sunny Gavaskar, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina.

For an orthodox player, Gavaskar proved to be versatile and averages 38.94 from 21 innings with a highest score of 92 not out. Gavaskar scored just one hundred in the ODI format in 1987 in his penultimate game against New Zealand.

Jadeja makes this list—placed somewhere in the middle—with 35.84 from 21 innings with a highest score of 87. Dhoni’s faith in him might not be misplaced after all.

Dhoni’s other blue-eyed boy Raina averages 31.03 from 30 innings with a highest score of 100. He brings up the rear followed by Virender Sehwag with 30.2 from 35 innings. Evidently Sehwag was not the impact player against these four sides in their backyard. These are stats though and stats never tell the whole story.

The above two tables are for players who have played a minimum of 20 Tests or 20 ODIs.

There are no equivalent statistics for T20s. There are no players who average above 30 and have played 20 T20 games.

English: Fans wave the Indian flag during a ma...

Fans wave the Indian flag during a match against Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following table lists batters who have averaged over 30 since Jan 1, 2005 against the four sides.

Tests
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
A Mishra 2011-2011 1 1 0 84 84 84 141 59.57 0 1 0 10 0
KD Karthik 2007-2009 5 8 1 364 91 52 736 49.45 0 4 0 46 1
V Kohli 2011-2015 17 34 1 1612 169 48.84 2791 57.75 7 4 3 191 3
AM Rahane 2013-2015 13 25 3 1069 147 48.59 1909 55.99 3 6 2 143 4
M Vijay 2010-2015 14 28 0 1108 146 39.57 2512 44.1 2 7 2 145 8
G Gambhir 2009-2014 13 26 1 982 167 39.28 2252 43.6 2 5 2 123 2
SC Ganguly 2006-2008 10 20 2 698 79 38.77 1163 60.01 0 6 2 85 6
KL Rahul 2014-2015 2 4 0 130 110 32.5 315 41.26 1 0 0 16 1

Amit Mishra is the anomaly averaging 84 from one innings.

Except for Dinesh Karthik who did well overseas especially in England and Gambhir who’s still struggling for form,  the rest are rightly pencilled in by the selectors when it comes to choosing a Test side.

ODIs
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
MK Pandey 2016-2016 3 2 1 110 104* 110 86 127.9 1 0 0 9 1
AT Rayudu 2014-2015 6 5 1 197 64* 49.25 265 74.33 0 2 0 16 5
YK Pathan 2009-2011 8 6 2 187 105 46.75 139 134.53 1 1 1 16 12
SC Ganguly 2007-2007 7 7 0 249 72 35.57 339 73.45 0 3 0 32 5
G Gambhir 2007-2012 19 18 1 576 113 33.88 750 76.8 1 3 0 47 2
R Dravid 2006-2011 14 14 1 428 92* 32.92 517 82.78 0 4 1 39 5
V Sehwag 2006-2012 13 13 1 387 125* 32.25 325 119.07 1 2 1 52 11
RV Uthappa 2007-2008 7 7 1 190 51 31.66 240 79.16 0 1 0 18 1
PA Patel 2011-2011 7 7 0 221 95 31.57 273 80.95 0 1 0 26 3

In ODIs, Pandey’s recent exploits see him top the list. Rayudu, Uthappa and Parthiv Patel offer the selectors an abundance of riches when it comes to choosing a replacement for MS Dhoni. Yusuf Pathan makes the list as well with a stupendous average of 46.75 from six innings.

The list of T20 players throw no surprises either.

T20s
Player Span Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
MS Dhoni 2006-2014 12 11 6 228 48* 45.6 216 105.55 0 0 1 15 5
D Mongia 2006-2006 1 1 0 38 38 38 45 84.44 0 0 0 4 1
AM Rahane 2011-2014 2 2 0 69 61 34.5 43 160.46 0 1 0 8 1
S Dhawan 2014-2014 1 1 0 33 33 33 28 117.85 0 0 0 2 2
G Gambhir 2007-2012 8 8 2 195 56* 32.5 173 112.71 0 1 0 23 2
R Dravid 2011-2011 1 1 0 31 31 31 21 147.61 0 0 0 0 3
V Kohli 2011-2014 6 5 0 151 66 30.2 110 137.27 0 1 0 17 2

These statistics , of course, don’t provide any sign of deserving talent among batters who have not appeared for India against these four sides in India colours.

India ‘A’ sides have toured overseas and Indian batters have prospered in hostile conditions. Those stats could have provided a larger picture of prospective talent.

But for me, it’s a no-brainer that if Indian batters have scored runs heavily overseas in these four nations, they are likely to do even better elsewhere and especially in home conditions.

Let no one tell you otherwise, least of all, MS Dhoni.

(All statistics courtesy Cricinfo’s StatsGuru).

Team India are No. 1 by default


Just three months ago, South Africa headed the ICC Test rankings. Today, they were knocked off their pedestal by a resurgent England. Team India are now No. 1 crowned by default on the back of their resounding defeat of the Proteans at home. Funny how in a matter of six Tests fortunes have changed and how. It also goes to show that if teams don’t put up a fight overseas and everyone concedes that South Africa were dismal tourists barring the final Test, their performance at home can take a nose-dive. England did something similar to India when they toured here following their 4-0 whitewash at home. MS Dhoni would perhaps reminisce about the time he led Team India to the peak four years ago, and perhaps knowingly wink at Virat Kohli saying, “I told you so.”

Ashish Nehra returns to Indian cricket in T20 format (Updated)


Once upon a time, Ashish Diwansingh Nehra, was the pick of the Indian pace bowlers even ahead of Zaheer Khan.

But he was plagued by injuries and inconsistency throughout his career.

Some would  even term him India’s Bruce Reid.

Reid turned out in Australian colours in a total of 27 Tests bagging 113 wickets at an impressive average of 24.63.

Nehra played 17 Tests for India bagging 44 wickets at 42.40.

One would have imagined that you had seen the last of the lanky Delhi left-armer since he was left out of the Indian side post the 2011 World Cup victory.

But, no, the fast bowler is back in the selector’s scheme of things selected for the T20 side for the ongoing tour of Australia.

Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag may have called it a day.

But the comeback man soldiers on.

Nehra performed exceedingly well in IPL 8 securing 22 wickets in 16 games at an average of 20 with an economy rate of 7.2.

Nehra said:

“I was surprised when they weren’t picking me for the last two-three years to be honest. Better late than never, hopefully I can do well, I am just working hard. If I go to Australia and play the World T20 and deliver, people will say ‘Oh he should have been there earlier.’ If I don’t, people will say, ‘It was right that they didn’t pick him!’ That’s how it works in India. Whatever is gone is gone, I am just looking forward and hopefully everything will go my way.

I have always worked hard to play international cricket. Once you have been there, you know how much pleasure you get playing for India. There were times when it was very difficult for me to motivate myself, despite not being picked, to go to the gym or ground and train. It was difficult. Age is just a number for me. If you can keep yourself fit, you can keep playing.”

Perhaps, it’s the on-off nature of his career that has ensured his longevity. And the fact that he opted out from playing Test cricket a long time ago to preserve his body.

He added:

“Some people really want match practice, I am among those who wants a lot of practice. Most of the time I like to practice in open nets, so I get the same kind of feeling. If I am bowling well in the nets or to a single wicket, I get that confidence, that’s how I have been playing for the last seven-eight years, this is not the first time I will be doing it.

People say T20 is a young man’s game, all those theories I don’t believe in. You have to be on top of your game, especially as a bowler and the kind of job I do, bowling two-three of the first six overs and one or two in the last four. In the sub-continent or outside also these days, wickets will be flat. You have to be physically fit and mentally strong, especially as a bowler. It’s a fast game but I have been playing IPL, and that’s a big boost. The intensity is as good as international cricket.”

Nehra hopes to be a mentor to the younger crop of bowlers, a role performed earlier by his partner-in-arms Zaheer Khan to perfection.

Maybe the selectors felt the need for his wise head in the camp given that Ishant Sharma has yet to fully deliver on his promise since his debut in 2008.

He said:

“This is a short tour, but whatever little I can help the youngsters, I will. If I can play till the World T20, I will definitely look at that job, I have done it for CSK and I really enjoyed it. Most of the bowlers have different strengths, but you can’t buy experience.

I made my debut 17 years ago. In the sub-continent, somebody like me, who has had so many injuries, undergone 10-12 surgeries, still standing there and playing the fastest format of all, it has taught me something which I can pass on to the youngsters and give my experience.”

Does Nehra regret giving up Test cricket?

He replied:

“My biggest regret is that I couldn’t play too many Tests because of my injuries. I played my last Test match some 11 years back. I was 25. In 2009-10, Gary Kirsten and MS Dhoni asked me to play Test cricket but that point of my time I was not sure about my body. I look back now and I regret it. I should have said ‘yes’ because couple of years ago, when I was 34, I played six four-day games for Delhi in six weeks. I could have easily done it in 2009, I was than just 30.”

Harbhajan Singh , the Turbanator, another ageing player returning once again to the Indian side, supported Nehra.

He said:

“Ashish Nehra has been a match-winner for India…..Just check the scorebooks as to how many matches Nehra has won for the . He played a big part during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and he was our unsung hero in the 2011 World Cup campaign.”

There’s a twist in this tale.

Nehra is considered good enough to represent Team India and his IPL side Chennai Super Kings (under suspension) but not for his state side Delhi.

The classy bowler was omitted from Delhi’s squad for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament’s Super League stage.

A Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) official said:

“Nehra’s got a bad habit of picking and choosing domestic games, which disturbs the balance of the team. It’s not good for the youngsters in the team either, and certainly not fair on the selectors, who were upset with him after he played just two games in Baroda before leaving the team. And this has happened many times in the last few years. In recent years, no one had a clue about when he would play and when he wouldn’t. This time, though, the selectors seemed to have put their foot down and said this can’t go on. Hence, he was excluded from the team. They feel that while he can play for India and the Chennai Super Kings, he can’t play for Delhi as long as he doesn’t show enough commitment for his domestic team, which in the first place helped him become an India player.”

Nehra will thus be undercooked for the Indian tour of Australia.

He has played just three games this season.

Former Indian wicketkeeper Vijay Dahiya was non-committal.

He said:

“You’ll have to ask the selectors (about Nehra). He didn’t play after two games in Baroda because we wanted to give a chance to the youngsters. He’s bowling every day at the nets in Delhi.”

Ex-India pacer Sanjeev Sharma, though, backed Nehra.

He said:

“He played 70 percent of the games when I was the Delhi coach. His commitment to the game, even at 37, is 100 percent. I saw him roll over Punjab with a deadly six-wicket spell at the Roshanara. He will strengthen the Indian pace attack with his experience. In the IPL, he was the second-most successful bowler this time.”

Chloe, Meringue and Popper discuss Virat Kohli’s merits and demerits (Humour)


A hen chicken (Gallus gallus)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chloe the Chicken wandered up to me and queried, “Say, do you think Virat Kohli is right?”

“Right about what?”  boomed Meringue the Meerkat.

“I wasn’t speaking to you, Merry, but the question remains. Is Virat right when he says that his captaincy efforts are under-appreciated by former cricketers especially those who never represented the country?”

English: Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula kram...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Popper the Parakeet squawked, “Is Virat right? Is Virat right? Is Virat right?”

I step in before the cacophony becomes more deafening.

“He’s right and he’s wrong, my friends. He’s right because South Africa were and are the No.1 Test side and had never lost overseas for the past 10 years—an enviable record. He’s wrong because the true test of a side’s and captain’s greatness lies in how they perform overseas in different and difficult conditions.”

“So, he’s right?”said Chloe the Chicken.

Chloe is a huge Virat fan and has a collection of postcards of the dashing youngster from Delhi. The ones featuring Anushka Sharma are carefully culled and snipped so as to exclude the sultry actress.

Meringue the Meerkat said, “But, don’t you think that it’s early days yet to pass judgment on Virat’s leadership? After all, he led bravely and from the front in Australia and though the side lost the series, they were not humiliated. And he’s cleared two stern tests on the sub-continent.”

Popper the Parakeet chimed in, “It’s early! It’s early! It’s early!”

“Yes, I agree. It’s too soon to tell. Dhoni had the Midas touch when he started out as Test skipper after Anil Kumble. He led Team India to the No.1 spot on the back of series victories at home. Virat could easily do the same. But we all know what followed overseas in England and Australia. And then MS lost the golden touch at home too when the English came calling.”

“True! True! True!” said Meringue the Meerkat.

“I believe that Saurav Ganguly was the best Indian skipper in recent times. He had the desire and the will to do well overseas. Similarly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. Is Virat in that mould? Or does he prefer easy wins on muddy patches?” I added.

“Muddy patches! Muddy patches! Muddy patches!” squawked Popper the Parakeet.

“And what do you think of Virat’s statements about non-international cricketers passing judgment on his leadership? Do you agree that they don’t have the credentials to criticise Indian cricket’s latest golden boy?” moderates Chloe the Chicken.

“That’s not quite right. International cricketers are privileged to play for the country. But they have to admit that luck and timing play an important role in their turning out in Indian colors. To paint domestic players as less capable is being unfair to their efforts and feats at the state and district level. After all, these young stars don’t have a problem turning to these very same non-entities when it comes to being coached about the finer points of batting and bowling.”

“Well, well, well, that’s settled. Virat Kohli is both right and wrong. A fine batsman, a fine cricketer, a fine leader but yet to become a fine man,” responded Chloe the Chicken.

“Hear! Hear! Hear!” echoed Meringue the Meerkat.

“Hear! Hear! Hear!” echoed Popper the Parakeet too.

Aggression in the time of Virat Kohli: Justified or not?


Aggressive teams win, right?

That’s the conventional wisdom.

What if I told you it isn’t so?

It’s not aggressive teams that triumph but offensive ones i.e. teams that play offense as against defence.

Note the difference.

Why is this relevant?

It’s of significance because Team India—in cricket—have turned over a new leaf under Virat Kohli’s leadership and Ravi Shastri’s stewardship.

They are playing aggressive cricket—always looking to win and willing to give as good as they get on the field.

This is the New India—the India borne of the BCCI’s clout and Indian cricketer’s early exposure via the IPL to the rigors and pressures of international cricket.

They are fearless, they will not give a damn or that’s what they would have you and I believe.

They have something their predecessors lacked—attitude.

It’s not that Indian cricket hasn’t seen aggressive skippers before.

Sourav Ganguly was a brat as skipper—irrepressibly keeping Steve Waugh waiting for the toss and tearing off his shirt at Lord’s when they clinched the NatWest trophy.

He was also extremely successful—but his success came from his recognition that to win overseas, he had to build a conveyor belt of world-class pacers to be able to take on the English, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders at their own game in their favoured conditions.

Ganguly’s churlishness was reactive; he had a point to make. Indians did not like to play tough or rough but would do so when push came to shove. They were not to be cowed or rolled over that easily.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni for all his tactical acumen in ODI cricket wasn’t as successful as Ganguly when it came to playing abroad.

He was more a defensive skipper; he would rather ensure that the game was not lost before seeking the win.

Virat Kohli’s assertion that he would play five bowlers  and let the specialist batters do their job is a breath of fresh air.

If he can find the right personnel to do the job, it is a strategy that can pay huge dividends.

What would Kohli not give to to have had Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar—in their prime—in this side? No disrespect to the current bunch of cricketers but they have miles to go before Indian fans sleep.

What is aggression?

An essay titled “Aggression in sport” on site believeperform.com defines it as “any form of behaviour directed toward the goal of harming of injuring another live being who is motivated to avoid such treatment”.

While viewed as a negative psychological characteristic, aggression can improve performance.

Assertive behaviour happens when a player will play within the rules of the game with high intensity but has no intention of harming his opponent(s).

The essay states:

“In sport, aggression has been defined into two categories: hostile aggression and instrumental aggression (Silva, 1983).  Hostile aggression is when the main aim is to cause harm or injury to your opponent. Instrumental aggression is when the main aim is achieve a goal by using aggression. For example a rugby player using aggression to tackle his opponent to win the ball. The player is not using his aggression to hurt the opponent but rather to win the ball back. Coulomb and Pfister (1998) conducted a study looking at aggression in high-level sport. They found that experienced athletes used more instrumental aggression in which they used to their advantage and that hostile aggression was less frequently used. Experienced athletes used self-control to help them with their aggression.”

What could be the source of this aggression?

Frustration due to goal blockage is considered one reason.

Situational and personal factors are other reasons i.e. a player’s personality and socially learnt cues that trigger an outburst of emotion are determining factors.

Stress can have a negative impact on performance and can even increase the possibility of injuring oneself.

The pressure to perform constantly, poor form and high expectations can all affect players adversely.

It is also not easy for focused athletes to balance their lives especially their non-sporting commitments.

Mitch Abrams, in his book “Anger Management in Sport”, writes:

Anger is a normal emotion. Anger is neither good nor bad, and no judgment need be attached to it. Some people believe that a problem arises if a person becomes angry. This idea is not true. To pass judgment on anger and condemn those who admit to becoming angry is the equivalent of robbing people of their humanness. Disallowing oneself from any part of the human experience weakens the experience in its totality. Sadness gives a reference point that makes happiness more appreciated. Tension can be better understood when compared with relaxation. It is about time we stopped making value judgments about anger. No one has ever gotten in trouble for becoming angry. You could be furious right now, but no one would know it unless you demonstrated some behaviour associated with the anger. The belief that anger is bad is so strongly engrained that people will sometimes deny its existence even when it is spilling out all over the place. We have all heard someone with a red face expel incendiary words accompanied by saliva and then follow up by saying, ‘I am not angry!’.The bad rap that anger has received has made it even more resistant to examination.

Truth be told, anger can be harnessed and used as fuel to assist in performance. Can it interfere with performance? You bet! Does it have to? Absolutely not. I have helped athletes compete harder with greater intensity for longer periods, motivated by their anger. The issue is not a matter of eliminating anger; it is a matter of keeping it at a level where it assists, not detracts from, performance.

Studies have shown that as anger increases, cognitive processing speed goes down, fine motor coordination and sensitivity to pain decrease, and muscle strength often increases. So for some athletes doing some tasks, anger can be helpful. For example, the defensive lineman who must make his way past a blocker to make a tackle might benefit from having some level of anger. For other tasks, anger would be a hindrance. The quarterback who needs to read the defense before deciding which receiver to throw to would likely perform better if he was not angry. In fact, some research supports this thesis. Players at football positions that require a lot of decision making tend to demonstrate lower levels of anger than players at positions that do not.

Therefore, when we talk about anger management for peak performance in sport, we are not always talking about making athletes polite and calm. Rather, we are referring to their ability to self-regulate their emotions to what their tasks require.”

Abrams has this to say about reactive aggression:

“Reactive aggression is behavior that has as its primary and sometimes solitary goal to do harm to someone. Usually, this action is in response to a perceived injustice, insult, or wrongdoing. This form of aggression is related to anger and is the behavior that gets athletes in trouble, both on and off the field. An example of reactive aggression may be the pitcher who is furious that the last time a certain batter came to the plate, he hit a 450-foot (140-meter) homer that cleared the bleachers. Still fuming, the pitcher aims his 95 mile-per-hour (150-kilometer-per-hour) fastball between the hitter’s shoulder blades.”

Abrams also elaborates on the difference between incidental and reactive or hostile violence in sport.

He says:

“Incidental violence is an extension of acceptable behavior. Checking in hockey provides a useful example. The line that differentiates checking from cross-checking or boarding, both of which are penalties, is often blurry. Overzealous players can certainly have their behavior spill over to being illegal. This behavior is different from reactive violence, in which the behavior is retaliatory. This kind of behavior can also be broken down into two categories. The first is the spontaneous response. There are some players who pride themselves on their ability to get inside their opponents’ heads and will deliberately provoke them to take them off their game. New York Rangers forward Sean Avery, often described as an agitator, is particularly proficient at this. So, the player provokes the other repeatedly, perhaps by checking them with their stick. Finally, the provoking player checks the first player one too many times, and the player turns and swings the stick at the opponent’s head. The response, although extreme, was not planned. This is spontaneous reactive aggression and is directly related to anger. Anger management programs specifically target reducing this type of behavior. More immediately though, the league or organization must penalize, fine, or suspend players engaging in such behavior as it can very easily cause serious injury.”

Ishant Sharma’s outbursts on the field in Sri Lanka that led to a one-match ban is an example of  reactive aggression. Sharma was reacting to what he believed was provocative behaviour on his opponent Dhammika Prasad’s part. He also appears to take his cue from his skipper’s aggressive nature on the field.

Virat Kohli was not seen to be rebuking his star ‘pupil’.

Instead the Delhi player glossed over his Ranji mate’s behaviour.

He said:

“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry It could not have happened at a better time for us. And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches. An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”

Kohli, too, doesn’t seem to believe that he has matured as a skipper despite the historic series win in Sri Lanka.

He added:

“I don’t want to say that I have grown as a captain as the moment I make a mistake, I will be treated as a child again.”

Former players are a divided camp when it comes to their reactions to Virat’s all-out-aggression.

Fast bowlers Sreesanth and Venkatesh Prasad were quite enthusiastic about Kohli’s handling of Ishant.

Sreesanth said:

“Look at any pacer playing any form of cricket and you will see that he wants to be aggressive. Being aggressive is in the DNA of a fast bowler. Without aggression, a pacer cannot be at his best. What is aggression? It’s a quality that brings the best out of a pacer. I must say I was delighted to see Virat Kohli support Ishant Sharma. Virat is naturally aggressive. I like his style. Indian cricket and world cricket need captains like him.”

Prasad said:

“It’s always nice to know that your captain backs you in all situations. A captain’s backing always builds confidence.”

Former cricketer Akash Chopra had other thoughts.

He said:

“Aggression for me is not just verbal aggression. For me the kind of determination and grit shown by Cheteshwar Pujara during his unbeaten century in the third Test was also aggression. Virat might have backed Ishant in front of the media, but I am sure he will not be pleased to lose his premier bowler for the Mohali Test. The Mohali pitch has been known to assist pace bowlers in the past.

Ishant bowled superbly right from his very first ball of the first Test in Galle. There was no doubt that the defeat in the Galle Test was demoralizing for the team. We are not privy to conversations in the dressing room, but the entire team, and Ishant in particular, seemed pumped up for the challenge for the second Test at the P Sara Oval.

His behaviour against Dhammika Prasad, however, was pretty surprising to me. The Sri Lankan paceman might have been bowling deliberate no-balls and bouncers, but that’s nothing new in international cricket. The Ishant that I know doesn’t behave like that with anyone. I watched him bowl bouncers at Lord’s as well but at that time, he didn’t lose his.”

Ganguly is, however, quite pleased with Kohli.

He said:

“I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. He is a captain who always wants to win matches on the field and I love that passion in him. It is also a proud moment or all to see him lead a side with such passion. I want Kohli to do better than me as a skipper. But his main challenge will be when India tour abroad. Australia, England and South Africa will test his captaincy. All the best to him for the South Africa series.”

Steve Waugh believes that every cricketer should be passionate when he turns out in his country’s colours. He feels that Kohli is in the Ganguly ‘mould’.

He said:

“I don’t know what a gentleman’s game means. But as long as it is played in the right spirit. You’d be disappointed if the Indian side had no passion because they are representing 1.2 billion people. The Australian side represents 24 million people.

There is a lot at stake when you are playing for your country. You want passion. Sometimes that can bubble over but you want to see the emotion and see them really wanting to do well. You don’t want to cross the line where it becomes unsportsmanlike but that can happen occasionally in any sport. We want to see players with emotion and passion.

He (Kohli) plays aggressively and I guess his captaincy is a bit in the Sourav Ganguly mould, where he can be in your face and he can be a bit prickly at times. But I don’t mind that, I am happy to see that.

As a captain, he is never going to back down or be trampled upon by the opposition and that’s a good thing for India.

He will do well. He had a good win in Sri Lanka and few sides in the past decade have won away from home, so that’s a good feather in his cap. I haven’t seen him captain much but I assume by the way he plays the game that he is out there to win.”

Ishant Sharma’s childhood coach Shravan Kumar is displeased with his ward’s new-found aggro.

He said:

“He bowled very well but got too aggressive. That is something he could have avoided. Aggression is fine as long as you are not making a physical contact or abusing. There should not be any body contact. If you do that then you are penalised. That is what happened with Ishant.

It (Ishant becoming overtly aggressive) is because of Kohli’s aggressiveness. He believes in playing fearless cricket and doesn’t hold back. The atmosphere of the dressing room is to play fearless and that rubbed off on Ishant too. But fearless does not necessarily mean that you become ill-mannered. What happened was in bad taste.

Ishant is back home but I have not spoken to him yet. I will give him my piece of mind when I meet him. Aggression is acceptable if you are getting the batsman out, else there is no point of being belligerent.

Sledging is to distract the player but there should not be any physical contact. It (sledging) has been there for many years but there is a way to do it. Now that he has got a one match ban, it is not good for him as well as the team.”

Sanjay Manjrekar is another who has his doubts over Team India’s newly adopted philosophy.

In an article for Cricinfo entitled ‘”What’s eating Ishant Sharma?”, the former India player wrote:

“India may say, ‘We won the series, and this is what you need to be a winning team – a bit of aggression.’ A simple retort would be: ‘Why didn’t aggression win you games in Australia?’

What I can’t fathom about these send-offs is: when a wicket falls, it means the batsman has failed and the bowler has succeeded, but it’s the bowler who is angry for some reason. Why should anger follow success?

When the anger of the victor is aimed at the vanquished, it’s a brawl waiting to happen.”

Waugh, Ponting and Holding toss away the coin


If Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Holding have their way, there will be no more commemorative coins to toss while celebrating special Test occasions.

Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Ade...

Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Aussie skipper Ponting suggested—during the recent Ashes series—that the toss be done away with and have the visiting side choose which side should bat first. This would even out any advantage from pitches prepared to suit the home side.

Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cric...

Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cricketer and captain of the Australian national team, photographed at the Sydney Cricket Ground at the start of the Test match against South Africa in January 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking to Melbourne Radio Station, Waugh said:

“I don’t mind that, I think that’s not such a bad thing. At the end of the day I think there’s probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don’t mind the authorities looking at some other options.”

Michael Holding, in his column for Wisden India, wrote:

“…the concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested – no more tosses. The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focussed on that coin when it’s in the air and the winning captain’s decision and so on. But that isn’t relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch. It’ll ensure better pitches throughout the world, because no one will look to build a pitch whose features are obvious, and which will give an immediate advantage to the visiting captain. They will try and prepare good quality surfaces that give no obvious advantage to anyone, which is what you want in Test matches. Some may say that policy will produce flat lifeless pitches with boring games. I disagree. You will still see a bit of ‘hometown’ pitches which suit the qualities of the home team more than the opposition, but the slant won’t be as dramatic as we tend to see in some countries now.”

In his previous post, the West Indian fast bowler elaborated on what makes a side great.

“Great teams can win home and away, and good teams will win at home. It’s as simple as that. I don’t personally see much wrong with that, to be honest. It comes down to how people classify them. Teams should only be qualified as ‘great’ only if they can perform all over the world, and can excel everywhere. If they don’t, they’re not a great team, and that’s fine.

I don’t think the boards should actively try and do something about making it even, you don’t need to say: ‘okay, we have to find a way of making sure teams can do well overseas’. On the contrary, talk to the individuals, the players who are actually playing and performing, and see what necessary adjustments should be done for them to be successful when they leave their homes. There is nothing wrong with people failing away from home as far as world cricket is concerned. I don’t think they should try and make an adjustment. If you can, you can. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough.

Having said that, when you go to some countries, the pitches are prepared in such a way that they are highly in favour of the home team. And I’m talking about even going to some parts of the subcontinent, in India, for instance, where you find – not necessarily now, but quite a few years ago – pitches that turn from day one. It didn’t matter who was touring India, because they knew they had great spinners, and they would be brought into the game from day one.

In England, they changed the nature of the pitches altogether, because they recognised that without seaming pitches, they had no chance of beating Australia. As I said before, I don’t see it as a major factor when you say teams are better at home than overseas, but if you want to have consistent pitches in countries, then you have got to adapt the principle that Ricky Ponting suggested – get rid of the toss.

All you need is for the visiting team to look at the pitch and decide what they will do. Then you will always get consistent pitches, because if it’s too heavily favoured in one way or the other, then the visiting team can take advantage with their decision. That way you’ll get consistent pitches, but that doesn’t mean all of sudden touring sides will start winning away from home. They’ll get a better chance of winning, but at the same time, they’ll have to play well to win away from home, because you can’t change overhead conditions. The ball will still swing in England, and you’ll still need good technique to play there. But the pitches won’t be that heavily favoured to the home bowlers.”

Will the ICC look into the matter?

We don’t wish to see series everywhere decided by the toss and pitches suited to the home side.

We’d like to watch real contests and adaptable players, not bully boys who score by the tons and take wickets by the dozen in their backyards and come up a cropper elsewhere.

We need classy players and their class should be evident on all surfaces and in all conditions.

Take away the toss if that’s what’s needed.

Prepare sporting wickets if that’s what’s needed.

Make curators more independent if that’s what’s needed.

Do whatever that’s needed.

Just don’t let Test cricket die.

Ishant Sharma: Angry and suspended but still his skipper Kohli’s delight


Ishant Sharma is earning both plaudits and criticism.

If the bouquets are for his stirring performances with the ball, the brickbats are for the blatant aggression on the field that has not just seen him fined 65% of his match fee but also found him in violation the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

The new-found aggression and maturity (as a fast bowler) has not gone unnoticed.

Dilip “Colonel” Vengsarkar considers the lanky pacer his find.

He said:

“He has been bowling at good speeds, hitting the good length often and getting bounce because of his height and action.”

Amit Mishra had this to say about Ishant’s efforts with the ball in the first innings of the second Test.

“The way Ishant bowled with the new ball was important on a slow track. His effort in the heat, that spell set the game up for us.”

TA Sekhar, India fast bowling coach, said:

“Basically, he is bowling a good line and length. There is an increase in speed from what he used to bowl earlier. After starting (his career) by bowling 145 kmph, he reduced in pace. But now he has gained speed and touching 140. He is expect to give breakthroughs in the first spell with the new ball. Ishant has played a lot of Test matches but doesn’t have a great record. He lacks variation like what Zaheer Khan had and this is something that he has to start working on.”

Another former fast bowler, Chetan Sharma, believes that Ishant is a much improved player now.

He said:

“Ishant is bowling well. I was in Sri Lanka and I spoke to him for half-an-hour. He sounded a very mature fast bowler. There used to be shy bowlers who used to sneak past their seniors in order to avoid a talk with them, but not Ishant, who comes and speaks to you. And that tells you about his confidence. He understands what he is doing. And, he has the backing of a lot of talented youngsters like Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and (Mohammed) Shami. I don’t think there is a problem in the pace department. If a pacer can pick up 2-3 wickets on the sub-continent tracks, then I believe he has done his job.”

Fellow Delhiite, Ashish Nehra, was slightly back-handed with his compliments.

He said:

“I am a big fan of Umesh Yadav — talentwise even though he has not fulfilled his true potential as to what he should have achieved by now. He is somewhat similar to me but my case was more to do with injuries. Varun (Aaron) and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) are also talented.
But Ishant Sharma, who has played 60 Test matches (62) is the least talented among them but one of the most hardworking guys around.
If Ishant has played so much and for so long, it is a testimony that talent alone can’t be the recipe for success. Talent can only take you till certain point but is nothing without hard work.”

If Nehra is right in that Ishant is the least talented among the current crop of pace men, then Indian cricket is blessed indeed.

Nehra spoke at length about Sharma.

Asked about his higher-than-normal strike rate, Nehra said:

“Look, there is a perception about Ishant. I agree his strike-rate is on the higher side but in last one year, he has taken five-fors in New Zealand and England. So he is improving. Don’t forget, he is only 27 and has already played 62 Tests because he started at 18. We should not put undue pressure on him and start saying ‘drop Ishant Sharma and get someone new’. What will happen if he is dropped? Nothing will happen. BCCI should just ensure that a fast bowler is given enough time and confidence to settle down. Dropping a bowler after one bad series can’t be a solution. A new fast bowler would take at least two series to just settle down.”

The Delhi bowler believes that fast bowlers do better when they enjoy the confidence of their skippers.

He added:

“Look the bottom line is, if you are bowling well, then you need nobody for help. But there will be times when even if you keep a deep point, the batsman will still hammer you. Then you have no option but to listen to your captain and bowl as per the field set by him. Michael Clarke was a great captain till last Ashes and today Alastair Cook has suddenly become a great captain. If you look at history of fast bowler-captain relationships — for example Sunil Gavaskar-Kapil Dev or Mohammed Azharuddin-Javagal Srinath, that has always been the case. When the going is good, nothing matters. Everything comes out when the performance level dips.”

Sharma seems to have no such problems on this score with his current leader, Virat Kohli.

Scribes might have expected some censure from India’s fire-brand captain given that Sharma will now miss the first home Test against South Africa for his aggressive send-offs in the third Test and the war of words with opposition players.

Kohli, however, was unperturbed.

He said:

“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl on Monday and they made him angry. It could not have happened at a better time for us And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches.An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”

The spring in the step is back and very much evident. After two hard-fought series in England and Australia where the Indians came off second-best, they appeared a much more hardy bunch in Sri Lanka. The score-line could very well have read 3-0 instead of 2-1 if the Indians had plugged away as they did in the last two Tests. It is a team sport and moments of personal brilliance and stellar performances can at most win you a Test or two. It takes consistent togetherness and toughness to pull through a gruelling series.

South Africa at home will be the real Test. Can Team India do an encore?

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